Success & Service: Yosemite employees honored for valor

Bee Staff ReportsMay 10, 2014 

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Receiving valor awards in Washington, D.C., are, from left, Jeff Pirog, David Pope, Richard Shatto, Eric Small and Jeff Webb.

NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE — National Parks Service

Four Yosemite National Park employees and a private helicopter pilot were honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., last week.

The rangers were recognized Thursday with valor awards for their efforts in a complex and technical rescue on El Capitan in September 2011. Awards were given to Yosemite National Park rangers Jeffrey Webb and David Pope and Yosemite Helitack crew members Eric Small and Jeff Pirog. Private contract park helicopter pilot Richard Shatto was also honored with a Citizen’s Award for Bravery for piloting the helicopter during the rescue operation.

On Sept. 26, 2011, the Yosemite National Park Emergency Communication Center received a call reporting a climber had fallen on the Nose Route of El Capitan. The fall was not life-threatening, but a secondary rope had become wrapped around his right thumb, severing it. The severed thumb had fallen approximately 80 feet and landed on a small ledge. It was retrieved by a climbing partner.

During the rescue, the helicopter hovered near the climbers and Webb and Pope were successfully short-hauled to the injured party. Once rescuers were on the wall, the injured climber was transported back to El Capitan Meadow. The climber was transferred to another air medical helicopter to be flown out of the park, where his thumb was later surgically reattached. The victim fully recovered and regained the use of his thumb.

Small, Yosemite helicopter crew supervisor, has worked for the National Park Service since 1997; Pope, a Yosemite ranger, since 2004; Webb, a North Rim District ranger at Grand Canyon National Park, since 1996; and Pirog, assistant Helitack foreman, since 1994.

The Valor Award, established in 1957, recognizes an employee’s demonstration of unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. The heroic act or rescue performed does not have to be related to the nominee’s official duties or occur at their official duty station.

Waterford Champions

Waterford Champions, a program to recognize, honor and appreciate people who make a difference in the community, announced its inaugural winners. They are:

Jose Aldaco, a member of the City Council, the Heritage Day committee and the Waterford Lions.

Ryan Hay, who as a 9-year-old wrote to the city asking for a skate park. The council committed $25,000 and he triggered donations from friends and companies. With grants, the fund has soared to $232,000. The park is scheduled for completion in November.

Hannah Kellog, a Waterford High senior and church group leader who, according to her youth pastor, is “off the chart when it comes to a servant’s heart and leadership.”

Sheriff to head group

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson will serve as president of the California State Sheriff’s Association in 2014-15. He was installed during an event in San Luis Obispo County last month. Other area sheriffs holding offices include Martin Ryan of Amador County, first vice president, and Steve Moore of San Joaquin County, treasurer.

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